Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 5 September 2012


my friend and former housemate jed came up with this phrase: columbia house diaspora. i liked it immediately.

on 23 august, a fire destroyed my former home in central square. everyone got out safely. i can’t tell the story of what it was like to be living at columbia house two weeks ago; it’s not my story. what i can do is to provide whatever material and emotional support is welcome, needed, and within my means for former housemates, friends, and strangers. and if you have a desire to contribute to a fund for columbia house residents, updates on their situation, benefits, and contribution information can be found at Columbia House Fire Recovery. the most important things are taken care of for the moment: everyone is physically safe, everyone has temporary housing, everyone has their immediate material requirements. there is a strong community offering support. there is also, of course, a lot of long-term rebuilding to be done.

i can’t help but reflect back on columbia house, and not only because of the fire. within the past month, my roommate moved away for his phd as well.

i moved into columbia house seven years ago, on the edge of my 25th birthday.  i didn’t know dann when i moved there or that we would spend five years living together, four of them sharing that sea green living room (that we didn’t paint) and electric blue kitchen (that we did).

there are so many things i didn’t know when i moved in. that dann would be family. that my last serious relationship would run its course almost exactly in time with living there. that our home would become a home for wayward musicians. that i would make friends with people i couldn’t have imagined meeting and would fall out with people i couldn’t imagine losing. that more friends would take over the first floor, extending our communal home. that group projects like imagined therefore limitless and the elephant tango ensemble would be born there. that while i lived there a fire would displace everyone at rugg road, a place that felt like my second home. that while i lived there my mother would sell the home i grew up in, that she herself grew up in, that had never been owned by anyone but my grandmother since the day it was built. that columbia house, the first place i ever had a bedroom of my own, would become the closest thing to a home i would have on the planet. that i would share so many wine and cheese nights, post-show wind-downs, brunches, holidays, and quiet moments there. that it would be the place where i would feel most absolutely me and where i would lose all sense of who i am. that i would move away still loving what this place meant to me. that it would be such a punch in the gut to see the third floor gone, just gone, to see the back porch where we all spent so many beautiful late nights together clinging with bare skeletal fingers to the blackened side of the building. that a building could carry such a symbolic weight of community and connection in my heart. that i would want so deeply and desperately to say to all the people i know who lived there that i am so happy and relieved you are safe. that whether we met years ago or over the past two weeks or have yet to meet or never will i would do anything to make this road smoother for you.

“columbia house diaspora” sounds right. many of us have scattered, to other Boston-area locations and to other states. but i know many people have lived important and beautiful and difficult parts of their lives at columbia house, just like i did. it’s disorienting to lose a place tied to so many memories. i feel a heartache that i can’t properly explain and feel no right to be feeling.

hallway wipeboard, 2007.


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